SPOILER ALERT: This post contains details of tonight’s The Walking Dead 11B midseason finale.
“Everything I done, and everything I still do is so that we have choices,” says Lauren Cohan’s Maggie Rhee to her young son Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller)in tonight’s latest midseason finale of The Walking Dead. “The place we’re going right now, you may not like it, but I promise you, it is the right choice,” she adds as the zombie apocalypse series reaches the two-thirds point in its 11th and last season.
With the final eight episodes of the AMC show based on Robert Kirkman’s comics set to start later this fall, tonight’s “Acts of God” was certainly a reckoning and a revelation.
The latter for the death of Reaper Leah Shaw (Lynn Collins) by her ex-lover Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) as she was about to take out her fatal revenge on Maggie.
The former for the detente of sorts between Maggie and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) after the bloodlust Cohan’s character had for the one-time villain for killing her husband (Steven Yeun) and another member of the Survivors back in Season 7 opener. “You have big balls, Maggie Rhee,” Negan tells Maggie after she admits she is willing to at least co-exist with him for saving Hershel earlier in the season. “I got you, and I got your boy,” Morgan’s character says, in what seems like the unofficial beginning to the recently announced spinoff Ise of the Dead.
— The Walking Dead on AMC (@WalkingDead_AMC) April 11, 2022
Less than two weeks after the Georgia-set TWD the mothershow had its last day of filming, showrunner Angela Kang spoke with me about tonight’s 11B finale, those spinoffs, the head injury accident Reedus had on set last month right near the end, that “surreal” final day — and how it’s not really over yet.
DEADLINE: Now two-thirds of the way through the final season, “Acts of God” we are seeing the relationship between Maggie and Negan change, is there where the spinoff begins?
KANG: Interesting … we were arcing out this story for a long time before there was any spinoff in the works. So, we’ve not been coordinating our story so much with the spinoff. They’re going off of where we end these two, but we definitely felt like there was a desire on Negan’s part to try to prove himself. I’ll say that it’s notable that he has not yet fully apologized, but this is a guy who I think tries to show his sense of, I don’t know, guilt or whatever and that there isn’t completely closure.
Also, I think Maggie, as a very pragmatic leader, definitely can look at what he has done in the current time and gone, all right, he has done everything he can to help my child, and that doesn’t count for nothing. So, I think, for us, it’s just part of their roller coaster or a journey that they’re on. It still continues. Not all is completely resolved between them, but we definitely love writing for this pair. As played by Lauren and Jeffrey, they’re just really good together.
DEADLINE: Also though, it seems that with the introduction of Annie Smith, as portrayed by Medina Senghore, as Negan’s new and pregnant wife, Lauren’s character is, maybe not changing her feelings about the man who killed her husband, but evolving them …
KANG: Absolutely. I think a big part of Maggie sort of softening even a little towards Negan is that she meets Annie and has this immediate sense that this person is a good person that she likes and can trust, that she is on the level. The fact that she has chosen Negan and vice versa says something, and so, I think that Annie really is key to this entire thing, and I think, even for young Hershel, he has no forgiveness for Negan yet.
DEADLINE: Even though his mother is softening?
KANG: I mean, this is the guy that killed his father, and he’s just finding this out. However, I think even Hershel, like, has a different sense towards Annie. He can tell that her heart is a good heart. You know, Maggie’s a person who, at her core, wants to trust people and have optimism and hope that there can be friendship and you know, that relationships can be formed. It’s actually counter to what she wants to be naturally, to push against people hard and to leave them out and to leave them behind. She’s made a lot of choices like that recently, and that’s something that she’s struggling with, and so I think things are turned a little bit upside down when she comes in the presence of Annie.
DEADLINE: Talking about presence, those locust swarms are symbolism galore, but looking over the years, this doesn’t feel like your usual TWD midseason finale. It has a transition feel to it. Is that, taking on different tones, something baked in to the flow of the final and supersized season?
KANG: I think a lot of it is that. It’s taking different tones. A 24-episode season definitely has a different rhythm for us. We’ve got to amortize the whole season correctly, but we’ve also got these sort of mid-points that are also large.
DEADLINE: How do you mean?
KANG: You know, some of the episodes have to be a little more contained, and in this case, we just decided we’ve done a lot of these big episodes where a ton of people are in them, and we just wanted to mix that up. Sometimes we do that. Like, this isn’t the only time we’ve done a midseason or a finale or whatever you call it that has a more focused narrative. We thought of episodes 16 and 17 as two sides of the coin. So, we’re kind of really following one part of the storyline here, and then the start of 11C, episode 17 picks up a flip side. So, I know that there are some people who are not going to be satisfied that their particular favorites aren’t as featured here, but maybe they’ll get that satisfaction in the next episode, hopefully.
DEADLINE: Well, you know there is always an expectation that a Walking Dead midseason finale is going to bring us a big death …
KANG: (LAUGHS) Sometimes that’s the case. I think, in this case, we took the path that the Leah death was our big death, because sometimes our death is a villain death. I think, there’s a lot of expectations, and we also like to sometimes subvert those expectations.
DEADLINE: In that context of expectations, you guys have wrapped filming on TWD now. Just in the past less than two weeks, you guys are done. The filming’s done. We’ve seen the photos. We’ve seen the group shot. We’ve seen everything done. So, I know you just got back from Georgia, so how did that feel?
KANG: It feels surreal.
You know, for a lot of us that’ve been on the show for a very long time, it doesn’t totally feel like it’s over. In fact, in some ways, it’s because it’s not. I’ve got another six months of intensive post-work to do, and we’ve got PR and marketing and events and Comic-Cons and premieres and things to deal with. So, it feels like, on one hand, it’s not done, but production is such a significant part of just the group working together.
DEADLINE: We saw some people like Greg Nicotero posting online, but what was that last day like for you?
KANG: It was definitely very…you know, a lot of tears were shed over many days, but also just a lot of hugs were exchanged and love was exchanged.
It was one of those things where so many people have bonded so closely, that everybody kept saying, like, this isn’t goodbye. This is just see ya later, or wait ‘till the next one. We’re all going to be in touch, so don’t even say goodbye. So, it was that kind of a vibe I think with the group, which was lovely.
DEADLINE: Just before that last day, Norman Reedus had a head injury accident on set, that pushed everything back a bit. We’ve covered the story, the details and how quickly he was back in front of the camera, so I don’t want to go there, but I did want to know what it felt like for you?
KANG: Anytime anybody’s injured on any way on set, even if it’s minor, we’re just worried. The whole thing was at the time was that he hit his head. It was an accident, and it was all reported properly at the time. He didn’t want to go to the doctor, but on the day that he did need to, I was staying late. I hadn’t gotten to set yet. I was planning to go there later. So, I was working on something else when I just got a call that it was happening. But everybody handled it beautifully, and Norman was taken care of. He’s doing great, but you know, it’s…I think for all of us, we’re all just very worried. We all care very much about everyone who’s part of the cast. So, it was definitely a surprising call, but you know, it’s just a testament to everybody that’s kind of around him, that they took care of him, made sure that he didn’t have to go alone, and then he’s back and doing his thing.
DEADLINE: On another level, now that TWD the mothershow has finished filming, and I know you have months of production to go, but the spinoffs are coming, with you working on the Daryl and Carol spinoff with Norman and Melissa McBride. Maggie and Negan’s NYC-set Isle of the Dead is coming, Fear The Walking Dead is still going and the anthology is in production, so will we see crossovers?
KANG: You know I can’t get into anything universe related, but I think because there is a universe that continues to expand. I think for those of us that are involved in it, it’s great to see that there’s characters that are going to have a life beyond, and then that means that there’s also possibilities for everybody else, too
DEADLINE: It took a long time to get here, and you guys got to go out under your own terms, what do you think it’ll be like when it hits you that The Walking Dead is really over?
KANG: I mean, I’m not over and done. You know, the schedule is so different this time around, because, usually, from the time we finish the season to the time we air the final block is usually much shorter. In some ways, in the final season, we’ve had to do so many more episodes, that there’s still lots to do..
So, it’s just a lot of process, and I think, for me, whatever part of the process I’m in, I’m trying to give it my all, and so just my head is still very much in. I just did a ton of post-work on Friday, and I’ve got more coming up in a couple days, and still giving notes on this and that. So, it’s really…it’s odd, I’ll say. It’s just odd living in a different world.